Notes for Michel Foucault The Birth of Bioplitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979


Key concepts: economics, governmentality, rationality.

Related theorists: Adam Smith, G Becker, Ian Bogost, David Berry, Alexander Golloway.




28 March 1979


Economic analysis as purposeful conduct through strategic means and instruments.

The kind of biopower Foucault describes idealizing homo oeconomicus better fits cyberspace machinic than human capital, for computers are more rational than humans and better fitted to the costly calculations of such analysis, so we shift attention from organization man to the hermeneutics of computing and phenomenology of electronic technology.

We slide from governmentality of primarily human activity to machinic, embracing with Bogost alien phenomenologies but not random in the sense of universal quantification ranging over all galaxies of meaning but homing in on the most important to know, electronic computing technologies including programming languages.

Need to look up G Becker Investment in human capital: a theoretical analysis.

(268-269) And we reach the point at which maybe the object of economic analysis should be identified with any purposeful conduct which involves, broadly speaking, a strategic choice of means, and instruments: in short, the identification of the object of economic analysis with any rational conduct.
(269) Becker says: Basically, economic analysis can perfectly well find its points of anchorage and effectiveness if an individual’s conduct answers to the single clause that the conduct in question reacts to reality in a non-random way. . . . [italics] Homo oeconomicus is someone who accepts reality. Rational conduct is any conduct which is sensitive to modifications in the variables of the environment and which responds to this in a non-random way, in a systematic way, and economics can therefore be defined as the science of the systematic nature of responses to environmental variables.

(270-271)

(271)

(271-272)

(272)

Subject of interest.

(273)

(274)

(274-275)

(275)

(275-276)

(278)

(279)

(279-280)

(280-281)

Dust epistemological model convinces Foucault any collective sovereign will fail to superintend the totality of the economic process, failing long term planning, no human sufficient just as Socrates rejected iterative reverse engineering; nonetheless superintending the totality of the economic process belies the very operation of cyberspace, emergent self control in the sense of autochthonous as Galloway presents protocol after decentralization.

(281-282) He could not fail to be mistaken, and what is more this is what the sentence says when speaking of this task, this duty, of which the sovereign must be relieved, that of superintending the totality of the economic process, [quoting] for the proper performance of which no human wisdom or knowledge could ever (sic) by sufficient.

(282)

(282-283)

(283)

Dust again, in sense the impossibility to compute successful long term plans is a collective fault of collectives rather than indexed to their technologies.

(283-284) If we situate it in its immediate context, and not in the history of liberalism over the last two centuries, it is very clear that this theory,understood as the disqualification of the very possibility of an economic sovereign, amounts to a challenge of the police state I talked about last year. . . . Political economy is not just a refutation of mercantilist doctrines or practices. Adam Smith’s political economy, economic liberalism, amounts to a disqualification of this entire project and, even more radically, a disqualification of a political reason indexed to the state and its sovereignty.


Rejecting economics as governmental rationality itself reflects human trajectory of PHI well suited for machinic PHI; we can have our cake and eat it too by shifting governmental rationality to the machines who also become the model consumer reasoner.

(286) Adam Smith’s invisible hand is the exact opposite of this. It is the critique of this paradoxical idea of total economic freedom and absolute despotism which the physiocrats tried to maintain in the theory of economic evidence. . . . One must govern with economics, one must govern alongside economists, one must govern by listening to the economists, but economics must not be and there is no question that it can be the governmental rationality itself.

















Foucult, Michel. The Birth of Bioplitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979. Print.